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Governor promotes his preschool plan in Macomb

Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton participated in a song during teacher Mallory Kessler’s class at MacArthur Early Childhood Center.
Rich Egger
Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton participated in a song during teacher Mallory Kessler’s class at MacArthur Early Childhood Center.

Gov. JB Pritzker is touring the state to promote his Smart Start Illinois program. His travels brought him to Macomb on Tuesday afternoon, where he visited with staff and students at MacArthur Early Childhood Center.

“Every study about early childhood says the same thing: 90% of brain development occurs (during ages) zero to five,” Pritzker said.

According to the administration, Smart Start Illinois would:

  • Provide every child in the state with access to preschool
  • Increase funding to childcare providers to raise wages and quality
  • Invest in new early childhood facilities and expand existing ones
  • Provide vulnerable families with early support and resources

Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton both said they benefited from preschool access.
The governor attended a private nursery school, as preschools were called when he grew up. He said those early years can be a great time in someone’s life.

“Especially when you feel safe, when someone who’s caring for you and in the classroom is constantly helping you learn without excoriating you for not knowing something, and who just exudes love,” Pritzker said.

He said his two children also attended private preschools.

Stratton said her four daughters attended preschool.

“Going to preschool was critical for me to be able to pursue my career. I would not be lieutenant governor today if I did not have people who were skilled and caring and loving and who were willing to love on my children while I was not there so that I could go to work,” she said.

Stratton said like Pritzker, she attended nursery school, and things that happened during those years remain at the forefront of her mind.

“It’s clear that those experiences matter to our children,” she said.

Stratton said preschool is critical for children, families, and society.

Mallory Kessler, who has taught at MacArthur for 11 years, said an increase in funding would allow MacArthur to continue providing its educational services, supply teachers with necessary materials and supplies, and support teachers in their careers.

“Early childhood education sets up children for future successes as they transition into elementary school and beyond, even into high school and careers,” Kessler said.

“Since we are the first school experience, we have the opportunity to create a love of learning in young children that can continue for a lifetime.”

Kessler said additional funding would be especially helpful in Macomb, which she said is a district with “a significant portion of low-income children.”

She said the preschool has a total of about 134 students.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.